The Return of the Ultra: Nvidia Readies High-End Update

Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB Performance Unveiled

by Anton Shilov
04/30/2007 | 02:34 PM

Nvidia Corp., the largest supplier of standalone graphics processing units (GPUs), is set to release a new graphics card that promises to offer boosted performance compared to existing high-end offerings, but also come at a higher price. The new GeForce 8800 Ultra is projected to be released earlier than ATI’s first lineup of DirectX 10-compatible graphics cards.

Current Flagship Receives Nitro Boost

 

The new high-end graphics card from Nvidia is projected to be based on the overclocked version of the GeForce 8800 GTX, the currently shipping flagship offering from the company. The new GeForce 8800 Ultra will still have 128 stream processors, 32 texture mapping units, 24 raster operation units and 384-bit memory bus, however, its clock-speeds will see a boost: the clock-speed of the processor will be 612MHz, while its unified shader processors will operate at 1500MHz, according to some sources. Memory frequency of the product is 2160MHz, which is 360MHz higher compared to the typical 8800 GTX. The new GeForce 8800 Ultra product is fully compatible with DirectX 10 and features the same list of capabilities as other GeForce 8800-series graphics cards.

This is not the first time when Nvidia releases higher-clocked flagship offering instead of releasing a new GPU as its top-of-the-range product half a year after the launch of contemporary lineup. The Santa Clara, California-based company did that in the year 2000 with the GeForce 2 Ultra, in 2001 with the GeForce 3 Titanium 500, in 2003 with the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra and in 2005 with the launch of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512. In all the cases except the last one this strategy allowed the firm to flood the market with new higher-performance products without spending additional money on taping out a brand-new graphics processor.

Clock-Speed Peculiarities

Nvidia’s recent GeForce 7800-series and 8800-series graphics processors’ feature different clock-speeds for different parts of the chip, which ensures balanced performance and maximizes yields. However, this also means some peculiarities when it comes to overclocking, as clock-speeds are increased in different manner than traditionally.

The GeForce 8800 GTX graphics chip’s unified shader processors always operate at about 2.3 times higher clock-speed compared to the basic clock-speed, however, the frequency of shader processors is always changed with a step of 54MHz, whereas clock-speed of other parts of the chip can be altered with 9, 18 or 27MHz steps. On the GeForce 8800 Ultra the clock-speed ratio seems to have been changed to about 2.4 and now that whole chip operates at 612MHz, whereas unified shader processors work at 1.5GHz. Besides, the new GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB sports a new bigger cooling system, which should ensure quiet operation amid high performance.

Even though those, who already have the GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB will not be able to overclock their graphics cards exactly to frequencies of the GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB due to different clock-speed ratio, it is highly likely that quite a number of GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB will be able to work at 612MHz/1458MHz for the GPU.

Still, 2160MHz memory frequency may not be easy to achieve, as the GeForce 8800 Ultra uses Samsung K4J52324QE-BJ1A GDDR3 memory chips (and may start to use 0.8ns chips too), while the vast majority of the GeForce 8800 GTX use Samsung K4J52324QC-BJ11 memory with 0.1ns higher access time. Even though OCZ’s GeForce 8800 GTX uses memory chips with 1.0ns access time, X-bit labs’ specialists did not manage to overclock them higher than to 2050MHz, which implies that Nvidia had to tweak BIOS of the GeForce 8800 Ultra product to achieve exceptionally high frequencies for GDDR3 chips.

Impressive Performance?

X-bit labs decided to find out how fast Nvidia’s new graphics card would be and ran several benchmarks of Asus EN8800 GTX 768MB graphics card overclocked to 612MHz/1458MHz for the chip and 2160MHz for the memory. Benchmark results of such an accelerator should be extremely close to performance of the GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB, still the actual board can be 1% - 2% faster due to 3% higher frequency of the unified shader processors.


*Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 612MHz/1458MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.
**Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 648MHz/1512MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.

Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB operates at 612MHz/1500MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.



*Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 612MHz/1458MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.
Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB operates at 612MHz/1500MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.



*Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 612MHz/1458MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.
Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB operates at 612MHz/1500MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.

Based on the numbers obtained on our AMD Athlon 64 FX-60-based system with 2GB of PC3200 memory and ForceWare 158.19 drivers under Windows XP, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is not really substantially faster compared to the GeForce 8800 GTX. The most noticeable achievements of the "emulated" GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB are:


*Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 612MHz/1458MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.
Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB operates at 612MHz/1500MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.



*Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 612MHz/1458MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.
Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB operates at 612MHz/1500MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.



*Asus GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB operating at 612MHz/1458MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.
Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB operates at 612MHz/1500MHz/2160MHz clock-speeds.

Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra is projected to be available in mid-May, which about the timeframe when ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, is expected to release its highly-anticipated code-named R600 product. Pricing and bundling of the new GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics card is still not completely clear with various sources pointing towards $650 - $999 gap.

The exceptionally high price gap of the GeForce 8800 Ultra implies that either Nvidia is confident that it would be the fastest product on the market when it is released, or the quantities of its shipments will be limited and people will be willing to pay premium for an exclusive device.